Ireland is known for its sweeping, verdant views, its whimsical legends and myths, its beers and spirits, and its proudly independent history. What the Emerald Isle is not as famous for is food—whereas France, Mexico, Japan, Italy, and many other nations boast cuisines that are renowned the world over, Irish food is rarely singled out for celebration.
This is not to say there aren’t some great traditional Irish dishes, such as Irish stew, soda bread, or boxty, to name a few, according to BBC Good Food. (Boxty is a fried potato pancake, in case you were wondering, that pairs well with just about everything.) It’s just that, food from Ireland doesn’t have many standout dishes, despite having lots of comforting crowd-pleasers.
What Ireland also doesn’t have are the foods featured here today, none of which are common in the country, contrary to popular misconception. One reason these “Irish” foods are not eaten in Ireland? There are six times more people of Irish descent in America than in Ireland.
Bacon and cabbage? Oh indeed, that’s a popular and traditional dish that has been enjoyed in Ireland for years. But corned beef and cabbage, that most “Irish” of meals always enjoyed on Saint Patrick’s Day? That’s American, according to New York Times, it comes from Irish expats substituting the readily available and more affordable corned beef. Part of the reason beef was so much more available and lower-priced was thanks to another immigrant community: Jewish Americans.
If you Google the words “Irish Chili” you will get tens of millions of results in a matter of seconds, with hundreds of those being recipes. What you won’t find, though, among all the recipes ranging from things like Vegan Irish Chili to Irish Chili Nachos, says Yummly, is any recipe for an Irish chili that’s actually a traditional Irish dish, because no such dish exists.
The Irish coffee you find in Ireland is so little like the stuff you find stateside that it’s almost inaccurate to compare the two. For starters, according to Weaver’s Coffee and Tea, true Irish coffee is made with sugar, strong coffee, heavy cream, and whiskey, never with a creamy liqueur, and absolutely never with whipped cream, chocolate, or any such thing. And second, you really won’t find much Irish coffee in Ireland anyway beyond pubs and restaurants heavily catering to tourists, according to Matador.
Despite the heavy use of faux-Irish iconography used to market this children’s breakfast cereal, Lucky Charms is as American as apple pie. Which… actually originated in Europe, for the record, according to Smithsonian Magazine. Lucky Charms cereal has been produced by General Mills since the mid-1960s and has provided families an almost completely non-nutritious foodstuff ever since.
Guinness, Harp, and Smithwick’s Irish Ale are all brewed in Ireland. But Killian’s Irish Red, is not. Killian’s is, and always has been, brewed on American soil by Coors.
Do not—repeat, do not—order an Irish Car Bomb at a pub in Ireland. While common in America, this “cocktail,” which is just a beer into which a shot made up of whiskey and cream liqueur is dropped (necessitating quick chugging ere the concoction bubbles up in the glass), this drink is not common in Ireland, and what’s more, the name is extremely insensitive. According to HuffPostthe term is derived from the time called “The Troubles” during which many car bombs went off, killing many innocent people, as Northern Ireland struggled to achieve independence from the United Kingdom.
OK, to be clear, you will find a dish often called Shepherd’s Pie on menus at restaurants in Ireland, but the caveats here are many. First, it’s often offered in touristy areas. Second, if the dish you get is made with beef, that’s not a shepherd’s pie, it’s cottage pie, according to Britannica. Traditional shepherd’s pie is made with lamb. And third, originally Shepherd’s Pie hails from Scotland and northern England, it’s not a traditional Irish dish at all, no matter what you call it or what meat you use to make it.
Beer dyed green with food coloring is an affect to most Irish people, according to PBSFood. It’s also an affront to beer, especially a good beer like Guinness. Not only will you almost never find a green beer in the hand of any Irish citizen, you won’t find them festooned in green clothing and running around pinching those who aren’t Irish on Saint Patrick’s Day, a day that’s much more reverent and somber over there than it is here.